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Susan Smith
Susan Smith
Susan Smith has worked as an editor and writer in the technology industry for over 16 years. As an editor she has been responsible for the launch of a number of technology trade publications, both in print and online. Currently, Susan is the Editor of GISCafe and AECCafe, as well as those sites’ … More »

Intermap Makes Geospatial and Analytical Data Accessible to Everybody

October 28th, 2021 by Susan Smith

Recently, Sanjay Gangal, CEO of GISCafe interviewed Patrick Blott, Chairman and CEO of Intermap. In speaking about the 102-year-old Intermap, Blott said they are a remote sensing and geospatial company that have been collecting data, producing data products, and producing analytics and software to go along with it for a very long time. Intermap was the first airborne corporation in the United States.

“It was the first ever to put a camera on an airplane, and we’ve been working with all kinds of different sensors and all kinds of different geospatial data products ever since.,” said Blott.

I understand you have a very robust solution for the insurance industry. Tell us about that,” said Gangal.

“It’s called the InsitePro and is Elevation Data as a Service,” said Blott. “We’ve got several dozen insurance companies that operate with that software, including some of the largest insurance companies in the world, admittedly insurance carriers. They’re using that product to underwrite fund risk. They use it is because it allows them to price risk based on the unique property characteristics and locations within their portfolio, and they can do that for a single house, for a portfolio of houses, they can get consistent analytics and answers, whether they’re underwriting those houses in Houston or London or Jakarta. We work off of a global high resolution seamless elevation data model created by Intermap, and it’s very timely because flood is a big problem.”

“Great, and did you recently enter into a partnership with Airbus on UP42 or UP42?” asked Gangal.

“Yes, part of our mission is to really take the power of geospatial data and analytics and make it accessible to as many users as possible, and part of the growth trajectory of our entire industry is pushing that adoption, making it accessible, easy to use,” said Blott. “UP42 is a platform like that. We can operate, we can touch users and consumers customers that otherwise we wouldn’t have direct access to because of our focused salesforce. It opens that door for us, and for them, it brings that customer base a very powerful tool to understand their geospatial environment. It’s military quality data, it’s top-shelf analytics, and it’s available and accessible to everybody.”

“How do you get your data?” Gangal asked.

“We create our own data,” said Blott. “We collect it, we have proprietary sensors and platforms, we have a fleet of aircraft. We have partnerships on every other kind of platform you can imagine. We work with and own sensors across the entire electromagnetic spectrum, including radar, high and low frequency, LIDAR, infrared. When you put the mix together, you can do some pretty powerful things. The data archive comes from that. Intermap has the largest 3D elevation data, 3D in the world on the commercial side because we’ve been collecting for 102 years. And then we have all of the exploitation and development and software that allows people to actually make use of this stuff and use it in a really real-time accessible way.”

“What type of resolution does your data typically have?”

“It all depends on the purpose that we’re provisioning data for,” said Blott. “We have a very high resolution and we have it in various modalities, and it depends on what the unique work sort of use case is. So for example, if it’s train avoidance for helicopters, that’s a certain data stack and we provide that data stack. If it’s a higher resolution, high precision point to underwrite a flood on the coast of Florida, that’s a different data stack and we provide that data stack. And I think, where we do it differently is we’re global and our elevation models are multi-source and they’re seamless. They’re highly, highly precise.

If you pull a point, as I said before, in New York City in an urban center on the East Coast and pull another point in Northern Washington State in a forest, you’re going to get the same point, in the sense of the parameters around that point and the specifications, the resolutions and all the things you’d want to use to actually make a decision based on that point. It’s precise, and you don’t have to change your models if you’re moving around the world, working in the East Coast of the United States or Florida, or perhaps Paris, France. It’s a highly precise global elevation dataset.”

“Do you provide oblique imagery as well?” asked Gangal.

“Yes, our fleet of airborne platforms can collect a sideways look, they can collect multiple perspectives on the target, and we can provide multiple angles.”

“Okay, and you also mentioned that you have many different types of sensors,” said Gangal. “Can you give us examples of different types of sensors and what does it bring to the overall data?”

“Sure,” said Blott. “Very importantly, Intermap’s been processing multi-source data since the SRTM program for decades, but we do it differently. We can do it with low latency, we can do it extremely quickly, and we’re source-agnostic. We’re scale invariant, we can take data from a high resolution sensor or a low resolution sensor, and we can incorporate that, we can do it all very quickly. But the key point of that is that our patented and proprietary process to do that is based on mono imagery. It’s not based on stereo pairs, it’s not based on interpolation algorithms. It’s a very sophisticated, very quick way of working with source-agnostic, scale invariant source data to create 3D environments that you can actually make decisions from. And to do that for any area of interest around the world.”

Gangal brought up Intermap’s announcement from a couple of months ago of a partnership with Garmin for next generation golf applications.

Blott said that Garmin, like many of their customers, have one of those global scale problems. “It’s one thing if you want to get accurate terrain for a single golf course, it’s another thing if you want to get accurate terrain for tens of thousands of golf courses all over the world and have it consistent, and then feed applications and feed updates with that, monitor that and do it at a resolution that you can actually measure a green. That’s a global scale problem. That’s a resolution problem. That’s a refresh problem. And that’s a multi-sensor problem because you want to do this remotely. You don’t want to send boots on the ground. And that’s an Intermap problem. That’s our sweet spot. We’re one of the few country companies out there that can deal with that scale and scope at the resolution and the speed that we do it.”

Is satellite data incorporated into any of your offerings?, asked Gangal.

“Yes, and again, it depends on what the requirement is,” said Blott. Being a sensor and remote sensing company, the reason that the applications are so good and effective is because Intermap understands the sensors and many of the most interesting sensors, Intermap fabricated in the first place.

“We built the first canopy-penetrating radar sensor. There are many, many firsts accrued from Intermap,” said Blott. “And we looked at it as sensors and then we looked at it as platforms and different platforms have different advantages, in terms of wide look and scale space, revisit space, in terms of acuity, precision, resolutions, air, and then it could go right down to drones into the ground, but really depends on what you’re trying to do.

Nothing can beat my iPhone if I walk into the backyard and want to take a picture of a blade of grass. But it all depends on what the use case is. That’s why it’s so important to be able to incorporate multi-source data and have it source-agnostic, and have it scale invariant, and allow people to go from the blade of grass all the way out into space and get a complete continental look, and do that very seamlessly.”

Blott will be attending GEOINT this year. Intermap has attended pretty much since its inception. Their offerings for the geospatial intelligence community include air navigation. “It’s very timely. Intermap has the only globally certified elevation data set specifically for commercial aviation and it was certified by the European equivalent of the FAA. That took years to get certified because our data can drive avionics in a cockpit, and that’s important because it improves the safety of navigation in the air. It’s applicable directly for high growth opportunities, like beyond line of sight drones, where we have a very vibrant commercial business, and people are hearing about helicopters these days because of unfortunate accidents. We view that very much as a terrain awareness, particularly flying under instruments and bringing in high resolution elevation models that are global scale to that problem can save lives. That’s an exciting aspect that touches the GEOINT mission. And then there’s other things that are timely as well, in terms of resource management, forestry, carbon, etc. All of this has to do with understanding the densities of terrain, understanding that large scale terrain, problems, fires, and being able to monitor those, being able to measure them, being able to measure them in a 3D context.”

As CEO of Intermap for coming up on five years, Patrick Blott said one of the most important things they’ve done in that time is bring Intermap back to its roots of working with governments.

“We’re doing really well with commercial stuff, what you’re hearing about in the press, but we are also doing really well on the government side, really plugged back in with that core customer, our first customer for 102 years, and I’m very excited about that,” said Blott. “We took a pivot and tried to do just commercial for a long time but really, a lot of the most biggest and challenging problems that require our products and services and collection and software are government problems and including things like flooding and fire. It’s really great to be re-engaged there and be getting very good traction, and starting to solve those problems again.”

Intermap is a publicly traded company with ticker IMP, traded in Toronto and on the QX in the U.S.

Since Covid, Intermap is deploying again in places like Southeast Asia and Alaska. “They conducted a private placement because they’re going to add platforms and sensors as we redeploy,” Blott explained.

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